The Passport Incident
by Rick Archer
Do you believe in Karma?
Do you ever wonder if there might be unseen forces that sometimes
control your life? Personally, I haven’t made up my mind, but I
admit to a strong curiosity.
After I published my
recent Passport story, I received many compliments. I began to
wonder if I should tell the whole story or not. You see, there was
a part of me that could not shake the feeling that my surprise visit
with my Aunt was “meant to be”.
first introduction to the concept of Karma came when I was
six years old. It was 1956.
This was a tough time for
me because I had just cut my eye out with a knife in a terrible
accident a few months previously. It was
my own fault. Hey, I was six years old and stupid.
These were the days I was
still walking around with a big patch over my
damaged left eye. At the time, they were still trying to
save the eye, but I would eventually lose it a
couple years later due to a detached retina.
My father was a brilliant
electrical engineer. He had just been transferred to Houston. Dad
was also an odd sort of guy who was convinced in the existence of
UFOs. He also loved to read about Peter Hurkos, the foremost
psychic of the Fifties. Dad was always telling there was more to
this world than met the eye. I frowned, because any mention of
“eye” would put me in a bad mood whether it was my eye he was
talking about or not. Life wasn’t much fun that summer.
To cheer me up, one night
Dad offered to take me to see stock car racing way out on South Main
here in Houston. I say “way out”, but now that I think about it, I
suppose the race track was located somewhere close to where Loop 610
crosses South Main today or maybe a little further out. Back in
those days, stock cars were a smaller version of the souped-up
racecars you might see at the Indy 500.
There were rides on the
route we walked on our way to the race track. I think I asked my
father to take me on a ride and he agreed on one condition. We
didn’t have much time left till the race started and Dad wanted to
get a good seat. So Dad’s condition was that this would be our only
As we continued our way
to the race track, we could both hear the roar of the engines as the
cars raced around the track doing their warm-ups. We had just begun
to pass the wooden fence surrounding the racetrack.
Besides the rides, there
were also carnival games like ring toss or baseball toss or
basketball shot to win a stuffed animal. I have no recollection
what it was that caught my one good eye, but I suddenly stopped in
my tracks and animatedly tugged on my father’s hand to take me to
the stand on my right.
My father was irritated.
“C’mon, son, we’re gonna miss the start of the race. You promised.”
“I know, Dad, but I
really want to do this.”
With a frustrated shrug
of his shoulders, Dad agreed to one more stop.
Just then, there was a
terrible crash. A stock car driver had lost control. His car
slammed through the fence at an incredible speed. Just ten feet in
front of us, the car shot directly across our path and came to a
horrible crashing stop against a nearby telephone pole.
Naturally we were both
terrified. It was a horrible accident to be sure. While I clung to
my father’s leg for protection, we both just stood there in shock to
see if that poor driver would move or not. He didn’t.
My father said he was
certain the man was dead. No one can survive a head-on crash like
As the crowds gathered in
horror, my father said it was time to go. He was fairly certain the
race would be canceled. Besides, he didn’t have the stomach to
watch any more. Just as he was about to leave, Dad stopped. He
started to look at me with the strangest expression.
“Son, why did you stop
me? I mean, why was that game so interesting to you?”
I shook my head in
confusion. “I don’t know, Dad, it suddenly seemed important.”
My father continued to
look at me in really weird way. He had concern written all over his
“You know, if you hadn’t
stopped me, we both would have been right in the path of that car.”
Dad shook his head in consternation. “You just saved our lives.”
I stared at him and began
to cry. I was so afraid.
As we walked back, Dad
said, “I guess it wasn’t our karma to die today.”
I had no clue what karma
was. I was too scared to ask, but the word stuck in my mind.
If you asked her, Aunt
Lynn would remember that eye accident well. Lynn was the lady who
came to the hospital every day to read “Lassie Come Home” to a kid
who had both eyes bandaged. Bandaging both eyes was meant to
protect the damaged eye while it healed from surgery. I was blind
for about a week. This story was about a destitute family that was
forced to sell their beloved dog for money. Except that Lassie
escaped from her cruel new owner and began the long trek from
Scotland to her Yorkshire home.
Lynn would later say
reading that story was one of the hardest things she ever did
because it was such a sad tale and there I was laying there blind at
the time. She felt so sorry for me. Lynn said she had to have a
towel handy to wipe back her constant tears. You can begin to see
why I love her so much.
After that incident, Aunt
Lynn would come to my direct aid on four different occasions. Each
intervention would come at a great time of need. The fourth time
Lynn helped me was the most important. It came during my tough
years in college ’68-’72.
I had several
heart-breaking reversals of fortune during my freshman year at Johns
Hopkins. For starters, I fell in love with a pretty girl who broke
my heart. She chose the rich kid over me. I did not handle it very
well. Then I had my car stolen with no insurance to buy another
one. I was having trouble studying. I was having trouble making
friends. There were days when I couldn’t find any will to do my
homework. I was lonely and having a hard time coping with life
completely on my own. It is tough to have the discipline to keep
working when you don’t believe you have anyone who cares about you.
My once-a-month trips to
Northern Virginia to see Lynn, her husband Richard, and my four
cousins was the only thing that kept me going. It was Lynn who took
me under her wing.
While the kids were at
school, sometimes we would sit down for a couple hours at a time and
talk about my problems. Her kindness and her pep talks were just
enough to bolster my flagging morale and give me the strength to
hang in there. Otherwise I would have gone off the deep end. Aunt
Lynn pretty much saved me during my freshman year. I will never
forget what she did for me.
Because I was so
miserable up at school, about this time I began a search for
meaning. This isn’t all that unusual. A lot of college kids use
their time at school to try to get a grip on things.
These were the days of
the Beatles and their Magical Mystery Tour. Drawing inspiration
from them, I began to read everything I could get my hands about
mysticism. Surely there had to be more to life than things seemed.
One book in particular,
“Autobiography of a Yogi”, stopped me in my tracks. From Page One,
this book offered one strange story after another to explain the
strange role of “Karma” played in a person’s life.
Ah, Karma. There was
that word again. This book really got under my skin. It has been
forty some years since I read that book, but I have never forgotten
the concept of Karma.
I will share a strange
experience from that same time frame. While I read the book, I
began to wonder if the tragic accident that led to losing my eye was
some sort of Karmic debt that I had to pay off.
I was also studying
Astrology. I noticed in one book on Astrology that my Sun sign was
in perfect conjunction with the star Antares. The book said:
“Antares is said to be unfortunate for the eyes, if in conjunction
with the Ascendant, Moon or Sun.”
When I read this
alignment was a direct predictor of eye injuries, I turned white.
You don’t believe me? Well, type “Antares conjunct Sun” into Google
and see what you get. I did it myself. The
very first web site I went to made the
same claim as that book forty years earlier.
At that point in college,
I began to worry constantly about being blind. Using a technique
called Progressive Astrology, I calculated a dangerous period
related to Antares coming up in a couple months.
Strangely enough, two
months down the road I accidentally collided with a friend while
playing pick-up basketball. Our foreheads smacked hard and I could
feel my glasses digging deep into my one good eye. As I fell to the
floor, I screamed in panic and kept my good eye shut tight out of
fear. Had I damaged my eye in the collision? I felt pain. One of
my friends said, “Oh my gosh, Rick, you are really bleeding bad.”
I was scared to open my
one good eye. Please don’t let me be blind. Finally I steeled
myself and opened my eye… I could see. The blood was coming from my
shattered eyebrow. It was a deep gash that required twelve
stitches. The hospital nurse would later say I had the best
attitude about my injury of anyone she had ever met. Hey, I could
I was deeply shaken by
the deeper meaning of the accident. Like my father staring at the
stock car that could easily have taken our life, I began to wonder
if our lives were fated and if all we did was go through the motions
while some force controlled us like puppets.
I entered a state of
depression. I stopped studying with any enthusiasm. I figured if
everything was predestined, why bother working so hard? Whatever
was going to happen was going to happen anyway. I was just going
through the motions.
One night I talked about
my recent eye injury with an older man whose opinion I respected. I
told him how this accident had seemingly been predicted by this
book. I said I was worried that we didn’t have free will. During
the conversation, he told me a joke about free will and
The joke ran along the
lines of “God helps those who help themselves”.
It rained for days and days. Now there was a terrific flood. The
water rose so high that a lady named Sarah was forced to climb on
top of her roof.
Sarah had on a poncho and brought several sandwiches with her. As
she munched on the first sandwich, Sarah just sat in the rain and
watched the water rise.
One hour later a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told
Sarah to get in.
"No thank you, the Lord will save me!" she said. So the man in the
rowboat rowed away.
The waters rose to the edge of the roof and still Sarah sat there
secure in her trust. Another hour passed and then a new rowboat
came by. Same story.
"No thank you, the Lord will save me!"
So the man rowed away.
Two more hours passed. Now the waters covered the entire roof.
Sarah was forced to sit on top of her chimney as the rain poured
down. The situation was really bad, but fortunately a helicopter
just happened to come by.
The pilot urged Sarah to get in now or drown.
"No thank you, the Lord will save me!"
After much begging and pleading, the man in the helicopter gave up
and flew away. The waters rose above the chimney and the woman
Sarah went to heaven where she met God.
"Lord, I don't understand," she said, "Why didn't you save me?"
The Lord just shook his head. "Gee whiz, Sarah, I sent two boats
and a helicopter."
As simple as that joke was, it had an effect on me. That was
exactly what I needed to hear. Maybe I had free will and maybe I
didn’t. However, I decided the only way I could live my life
effectively was to assume I did have free will. For my life to
work, I absolutely had to believe I was captain of my own ship.
That decision worked. I
snapped out of my tailspin and started to study again.
I also made a major
If something was going to
happen; it was going to happen whether I tried to guess it in
advance or not. It was a waste of time worrying about it because
worrying about being blind had turned me into a basket case. Enough
already. My life had worked much better before I started believing
in all this Predestination and Fate stuff.
I dropped my new hobby of
Astrology. I never seriously opened another astrology book again.
Whether astrology was legitimate or not, I could not live my life
normally if I was always waiting for something bad to happen. I
closed my astrology book for good and I closed my Yogi book for good
as well. I obviously didn’t have the guts to continue to delve into
the mysteries of the Universe.
In the forty years since
then, I have never gone back to my book about Karma. But that
doesn’t mean I have forgotten. It just means I am so spooked about
it that I need to keep my distance.
The concept of Karma
stays with me at all times. Whenever something really out of the
ordinary happens, I pause and recall the teachings of my Book in
I am not a mystic.
Hardly. Ever since my college days, I have had both feet firmly
planted in the Material World. I have never had a vision. I have
never seen a ghost. I don’t see auras. I have never heard voices
in my head and I have never seen a UFO. I have never had even the
slightest experience with ESP or precognition. Basically, I have
never had an obvious mystical experience in my life.
There are people who say
there is spiritual side to life that exists beyond our five senses,
but don’t ask me to prove it. I have no evidence to offer
Therefore, I am not
writing this article with any intention of telling you what is real
and what is not real. I am wanderer on the Path of Truth just like
All I am going to say is
that I have led a life full of chance meetings and strange
coincidences that defy logic. That’s the best I can do.
Since I wish to believe
there is more to this world than meets the eye, I have paid special
attention every time one of these “coincidences” occurs. I might
add that I am not the only person in the world who thinks
“coincidences” have a deeper meaning.
Here are some interesting
“A Coincidence is a small miracle in which God chooses to remain
“Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see the levers and
pulleys.” Emma Bull
"Coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous." Doris Lessing
"When you live your life with an appreciation of Coincidences and
their meanings, you connect with the underlying field of infinite
possibilities." Deepak Chopra
"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ to explain
bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not
seeking, but rather evading the real explanation." Robert Shea &
Robert Anton Wilson
So what is a good example
of a coincidence? Here’s a simple one.
It was now one year since
my bloody eye injury had sent me into a meaning of life tailspin. I
was 20 years old and a junior in college.
After my accident, I had
foresworn all my books on mysticism and had moved my search for
meaning in a different direction. Now I was taking every college
course in Philosophy and Psychology that was offered.
On a spring day in April
1971, out of nowhere, an odd thought darted across my mind. I
thought to myself, “Uh oh, I don’t have a job for the summer. I
wonder what I will do.”
I thought about it for a
moment. An idea popped into my head. “You know, I would really like
to be a camp counselor at a summer camp. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
I smiled for a moment,
but then cast it off as unrealistic. I didn’t know a soul who could
help me and it was too late realistically to do anything about it.
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
Three days later I was
playing with this kid named Eric at a Day Care Center where I
volunteered. Eric was my favorite. He was about six years old and
funny as all get out. As I sat there chatting with Eric, his mother
Nancy walked up. Nancy was smiling because she knew I liked her kid
and he liked me.
Along with Nancy was an
attractive lady named Mary. Nancy introduced Mary as her sister. I
asked Mary where she was from. Colorado.
“Oh, I love Colorado. I
have visited there many times. Beautiful. I love the mountains.
What do you do in Colorado?”
“My husband and I run a
summer camp for teenagers.”
My eyes narrowed.
“That’s odd because I was
just thinking the other day how much I would enjoy a job as a camp
counselor this summer. Do you have any openings?”
enough, we do. In fact, I am here in Baltimore to conduct some
At this point, as if on
cue, Nancy volunteered, “I have known Rick for several months. He is
awesome with the kids here at the Center.”
Mary smiled. “Well, in
that case, why don’t you come over to Nancy’s house tonight and meet
That evening I got the
job. As I drove home, I was well aware that my books on mysticism
had often mentioned that strong wishes had the ability to become
One month later I drove
out to Colorado. There is an interesting story about this wonderful
break I received. On the bright side, I turned out to be one of the
most popular counselors in the camp. Sure enough, I loved the kids
and they loved my goofy, teasing style. Anyone who has ever taken a
dance class from me has probably suffered the same quirky sense of
humor. And, of course, I loved being in the mountains of Colorado
for an entire summer.
Yet at the same time, I
had the most difficult summer of my life at that camp. For one
thing, I was really out of my element. I was a city kid with
practically no practical outdoors skills thrown in with a lot of
young men who had grown up on a farm. We had almost nothing in
common. One day someone asked me what I studied in college. I said
Dostoevsky, Sartre and Kierkegaard. Where did this guy come from?
I could have been from outer space as far as they were concerned.
However, it wasn’t the
Agriculture majors who gave me trouble. As long as I did my job,
they just left me alone. The Fraternity types were much worse.
At that time in my life,
I was an introverted bookworm who had limited social skills. For
starters, I had zero social skills with women. I had never dated in
high school and just enough in college to get my heart broken. Like
the Ag majors, the female counselors simply gave me a wide berth. I
was too weird for them.
However my real weakness
was the Frat Boys. I did not do well with the confident alpha males
my own age. Several of the male counselors were gung-ho fraternity
types who quickly identified me as the weakling. There is just
something about human nature that makes some people pick on those
who are different. That would be me.
There was a group of
three young men who took turns picking on me any time they could.
The teasing I got was unmerciful all summer long. It was tough
because I was completely on my own. I had no one to talk to about
their constant razzing.
The problem for me is
that I was stuck in my mystical teachings at that point in my life.
My “mystical teachings” had strongly endorsed the Christian ethic of
turning the other cheek. The more these guys picked on me, the more
I kept my resentment bottled up in a pathetic attempt to be
“spiritual”. My silence did me no good. They kept teasing and I
kept getting angrier inside.
I finally had to learn to
stand my ground against these bullies. One day I finally lost my
temper. That’s all it took. They took one look at the look on my
face, the size of my broad shoulders and my balled up fist and
decided to leave me alone for the rest of the month. The ordeal was
over. To be honest, I think they really just wanted proof that I
was human like anyone else.
I learned there are times
when you gotta to stick up for yourself. Too bad I had to learn
that valuable lesson the hard way. Some might even say this was a
Meanwhile, that miserable
summer made me very leery about the wisdom of “asking” for things in
the future. Be careful what you ask for; you might just get it.
I realized that just
because your wish comes through, Karma may put a twist on it you
might not appreciate. The writings suggest that Karma exists to
teach lessons whether you like them or not.
I have lived my entire
adult life pretending I have free will while simultaneously
believing there may actually be something to this concept of Karma.
I find it very comforting to believe that for all the terrible
things that happen in this, there might be an underlying reason to
explain it all. That’s the only way I can handle tragedies like the
recent shooting in Aurora, Colorado, or 9-11.
And yet I don’t have a
single bit of proof that Karma is a legitimate force in nature.
This is all conjecture. So please take my word for it when I say I
have absolutely no desire to persuade you or anyone else that I know
what I am talking about. If I can get you through this article
without making you think I am losing my mind, I’ll settle for that.
The truth is I have no
way to verify the authenticity of the Hindu concept of Karma. I
will go no further out on a limb than to say I am open-minded to the
idea. Yes, I would like for “Karma” to be true because that would
add so much more meaning to my life and to “Life” in general. But,
like many beliefs, just because I want it to be true isn’t going to
make it so.
Let’s just say I have
spent my last forty years in quiet observation of the possibility
and leave it at that. My conclusion is that there have been enough
“coincidences” in my life to cause me to continue my avid curiosity.
And yet at the same time I have always made sure to maintain a
parallel sense of skepticism. We will just have to see, won’t we?
Now let’s discuss the
loss of my passport.
When I recently lost my
passport, I was frantic for about 30 minutes. I could not begin to
think straight. However, when I calmed down and got a grip, it
dawned on me that one of my best friends in the world lived at most
ten miles away. How could I have forgotten Lynn and the rest of my
family? That didn’t make any sense. It seemed very strange that I
never even thought of her till now. It was like I had “blinders” on
and someone had just removed them.
Immediately one of those
“feelings” came over me. Maybe I was supposed to be here. Maybe
this was a Karmic moment that was meant to happen.
I lost that passport
under very strange circumstance to begin with. And now when I was
feeling completely stranded in the middle of nowhere, I suddenly
realized that one of my best friends in the Universe was just down
the road. What an odd coincidence!
Back when Marla said we
would be passing through a DC airport, I remember specifically
saying how much I wished I could see Lynn. As I said, be careful
what you wish for. You might just get it… and the unexpected twist
Well, here I was. I knew
for sure that Lynn and I had a bond that is special. This accident
had given me the perfect opportunity to see her again. And just
maybe Lynn could help me out of this jam!! However, it was all so
convenient that I had to wonder if this meeting was part of the
unseen “Plan”. There was a sense of eeriness to the moment that
caused goose bumps.
If you have read my
passport story, then you already know
things worked out wonderfully.
So let’s fast-forward a
Yesterday I ran into an
old friend. This friend saw me and smiled. “I read your story and
I am proud of you, Rick. You handled your Karmic situation
I was shocked. What a
thing to say! But then I smiled. Why not admit the truth? I
confessed there was a part of me that completely agreed something
very unusual had happened.
Then I asked, “So you
think this was a Karmic moment?”
“Absolutely. The moment
you sensed that your strange dilemma had that eerie ‘feel’ to it,
you relaxed and simply allowed the ensuing drama to unfold without
further panic. I am pleased for you.”
I nodded. Although I had
not originally intended to say it publically, that was exactly what
I had thought at the time. This situation was “meant to be”, so
why not enjoy it?
This had all the feel of
a situation arranged by unseen hands. I could not help but recall
my favorite quote: “Coincidence is the word we use when we can't see
the levers and pulleys.”
This unexpected event
definitely had a possible mystical element to it.
Now apparently my friend
who read my story had come to the same conclusion. I even thought it
was odd that my friend showed up at just the right time to assure me
that I wasn’t thinking crazy thoughts after all. “No, Rick, you are
not losing your mind. This is how Karma works.”
As I wrap this story up,
I hope it is clear that I am not attempting to impose any sort of
religious philosophy on anyone. I have written this story simply
because I had a weird experience and I wanted to share my curiosity
Is there more to Life
than meets the eye? I don’t know, but I hope so.
None of us really “know”,
now do we? That is what Faith and Belief are all about. When it
comes to Karma, I never know whether I am thinking like a mad man or
I am on the right track.
On a day to day basis, I
go through life acting as if there is nothing supernatural about the
world at all. However, in the secret corners of my mind, I find it
comforting to believe in the concept of Karma because it suggests
that amid all the pain and chaos in the world, there may actually be
an underlying Divine Order. Now wouldn’t
that be nice?
Next Story: Visits to Five Different
Baltic States starting with